Triggering everything 

I’ve avoided using my blog to enter into all the social justice and political debates. Twitter has been my outlet for this but it can be a pain to navigate because of all its limitations. But now I’ve decided to make increased use of this blog. 

America has become a really weird place. According to many, most of the values I embrace are antiquated, bigoted, racist, sexist and fit into one or more phobias.  There are many voices of reason though with whom I agree, ie Ben Shapiro, Steve Crowder, Gavin McInnes and many others.

It’s a good thing these people exist and have a voice. Unfortunately I don’t have their platform because, honestly, no one cares what I think or have to say. So at the risk of inviting a few scattered hate comments from those who allege to be the most tolerant of all, I’m throwing my opinions out there for all who might be interested in one more person to dislike.

There are so many topics to address it’s really difficult to choose one. I think I’d like to dive into the one about gender. Why not? I’ve heard it said that gender and sex are not the same. And yet, they really are. If you are born male, you’re a boy and if you’re born female you are a girl. When you visit the newborn nursery at a hospital you see boy babies and girl babies. You never see a sign marked, undecided or to be determined. There are many things in life left up to choice. A career, a place to live, a spouse. Sex is not one of them. Just like you cannot choose your parents or the location of your birth you do not get to choose whether you are a boy or a girl, a man or a woman. You can pretend but your body knows what it is.

It is a shame that so many people have decided to live in a fantasy world and are trying to get everyone else to live there as well. I am perfectly fine with reality. All the surgeries, cross dressing and weird names are not going to change the truth. 

Males are males and females are females. I don’t even need to prove this. Penises and vaginas have made the difference very clear.

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Minimizing my minimalism 

Since starting this journey I’m learning a lot. My most recent revelation is that I do not want to live my life according to a term.  I am a member of a few groups defining themselves as “Minimalists” and have found lots of interesting people and useful information. But I have come to believe that many are living within this set of quotation marks who seem almost afraid that they won’t be true to the title if they don’t quite fit the mold.

Let’s go back a bit further. 

I’ve been a Christian for many, many years. More than half my life. For a long time I tried to make sure that I fit the term. I used all the right jargon. Made sure I called everyone brother or sister, said amen a lot. You know what I mean.  After many years, saying and doing all the right things almost seemed more important than the goal. The Bible is my handbook, the written source of all I know about God. But just reading it and carrying it doesn’t create a personal relationship with Christ. I have that now.  But it isn’t because I fit the mold. It’s because of the relationship that I have developed with Jesus over the years. Like marriage, the commitment takes a second but the relationship can take a lifetime.

Not my house

Back to the present 

I took a dream job on a ship where I would have very little space for stuff. I planned to be gone for 6 months and it didn’t make sense to keep paying for an apartment and utilities and so I left it all behind. The monetary value of my possessions was less than the cost of keeping them in storage for 6 months. At first I tried selling things. I did sell a few items but the clock was ticking and I had to be on a plane by a specific day. After distributing the most sentimental items to my kids I had to figure out what to do with everything else. I’ll admit it was difficult. There was nothing that I could not eventually use again in the future. But my plan was to be at sea for a couple of years. Little did I suspect that this would change and instead I’d be back in less than 3 months. You can go back and read about that another time.

And so, minimalism, was thrust upon me. But I embraced it. I took it to the utmost degree. One day I dragged my old sofa outside and not having a truck, hacked away at it with a hammer until I could haul it away in tiny pieces in the trunk of my small car. I removed every item from upstairs and brought it downstairs. The clock was ticking faster. If someone came in to buy a chair, they left with a bunch of other stuff as well. A hoarder would have been devastated by my wonton disbursement of all that I’d  accumulated. 

Not my house

I was by no means a packrat. Before the kids grew up and before my wife passed away, we had already downsized to move from our house into an apartment. But that is another story.

My goal was to only have what would fit and could be stored in my car, which would stay in storage at a family member’s home.

I met that goal. 

Now here I am just a few months later with much less than most minimalists. What is not in my car is in the room where I am staying. I recently went on a road trip up north and literally had all that I own with me. 

Not my house

As minimal as I have become,  I am avoiding the definition. I’ll admit that when I first started I embraced it wholeheartedly. I watched the videoes, joined the groups and took pride in this new identity. I made sure my Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other profiles all specifically identified me as a “minimalist” with extra large quotation marks!

I suddenly realized that I was doing the same thing I had previously done with Christianity. I was making sure I had the fish symbol on my car, went to every service, was on several church boards, etc. It was not until after I’d lost my wife that I realized that seeking God was the goal, not just talking the talk. 

Not my house

The same is true of what we are calling minimalism. I seek a simple, happy,  uncluttered lifestyle. I’m getting pretty darn close. It’s a bit late in life but sometimes you must lose a lot to figure out what is important. There is still a lot of tweaking to be done.  Ultimately,  satisfaction will not come to me be because I only have a chair and a tv and one piece of art on the wall. It won’t because I have less clothes than everyone else. It will be due to finally figuring out who I am and what I want my life to look like. With God’s grace I am going to get there.
Comments, questions and subscribers to this blog are appreciated. 

A word about Christmas, Minimalism and Gifts. 

The time is coming. It’s not even Thanksgiving and stores are full of trees and decorations for sale. We have not even had the opportunity to be thankful for what we have before getting ready to make a list of what we want.

For many, the spiritual aspect of Christmas is all but gone. No, it isn’t Giftmas. What once was a sacred occasion is nothing more than a time for stores to make as much profit as possible.

Now that I’ve ventured into the world of minimalism I’m getting to see a whole new side of Christmas that had really not been so much of an issue for me. But for many, it’s a big deal. And not just Christmas. It’s about birthdays, anniversaries and any other holiday, religious or not, where gifts are involved.

As minimalists desperately try to purge unwanted possessions, many dread situations where they are in danger of receiving unwelcome clutter in the form of a gift.

While I am no expert of etiquette and relatively new to minimalism I will offer my opinion, right or wrong, for you to consider and glean from it any portion you deem useful. What I have to say is not only for minimalists.

The conversation that arises is how to let others know that you don’t want any gifts or at least none that you won’t appreciate. Why let others waste money, time and effort on something that you don’t want? This is not an unreasonable mentality but there is much to think about on both sides.

For many, Christmas, birthdays and such are times for giving and many enjoy giving. And so picking out gifts for loved ones is a great pleasure. As the potential receiver you can’t take that away from them. It’s not your responsibility or place to tell others how to spend their money.

At the same time, gifters have some opportunities here. Since the last time they went shopping they have had an entire year to learn about what loved ones value and what their lifestyle is. Hopefully, as a gifter you know enough about your loved ones to show that not only did you take the time to shop, but you also took the time to learn about that person. Shopping for a minimalist can be hard work and frustrating because they seem to want nothing. Often whatever you get them might be regifted, exchanged or returned. Worse yet, it might get tossed in the trash. That is why, having a whole year is plenty of time to figure out when a gift card is a much better gift than a cheese slicer.

I am not a fan of Christmas lists. They are self indulgent and teach kids to think of themselves. It creates an air of expectation and entitlement. Parents have a whole year to learn what their kids like and don’t like. They shouldn’t need a list.

As receivers of gifts, no one, minimalists included, should fear the undesired gift. It is not your responsibility to make sure that your loved one is spending his or her money wisely. If they have not learned enough about you to know the best gift for you, take whatever it is, be grateful you were thought of and say a sincere thank you. So what if you end up giving it away, it didn’t cost you anything. So what if you didn’t get what you wanted. Go out and buy it yourself. You are entitled to nothing. You didn’t earn it, it didn’t cost you anything. A gift is just that, a gift. The giver has no obligation to give it or to make sure it will be appreciated. Receive it in the spirit it was given and say that you.

So stop worrying about getting the word out that you don’t want or need anything or that you have a list that others should adhere to. The world will not end because you got something you don’t want. Your life will not be ruined.

Merry Christmas

Get rid of all the things – Part VII

A few days ago I finally got rid of my largest and heaviest piece of furniture. For years a beautiful wood china cabinet had to be loaded and unloaded any time we moved. It displayed all of our wedding china and silverware. Now of course I have no need or use for such things. As is the way with minimalism, you get rid of that which is no longer useful or ceases to bring joy. As a widowed man, living alone, I can think of no occasion where I would need to pull out “the good china”.

And so, having fully embraced the idea of owning as little as possible, without any hesitation, and after lowering the selling price to a pathetic amount, I watched as this heirloom went out the door and onto the floor on the buyer’s flatbed trailer.

There are still many thing with which I need to part but I am not placing any pressure on myself to meet any deadlines. As it becomes convenient to find homes for the rest I will do so. Recently a coworker casually mentioned that she was about to shop for a large crockpot. Having replaced mine with a much smaller version, I was delighted to give her the large one, making both of us happy.

When a lounge chair broke a couple of weeks ago, although I was momentarily disappointed that I could no longer use it, I admit total satisfaction as I dumped it into the trash. An armchair that I am still using will stay until I no longer live in my current apartment. The same goes for an old school desk that is somewhat of an antique. The chair will find a home with one of my kids and so will the desk. For now neither is in my way. It won’t be long before the washer becomes non-functional after which I have no problem seeking out a local laundromat. There are no plans to burden myself with a replacement.

I’ve made so much progress since starting this journey and in a relatively short time. I could see where this lifestyle is not for everyone. I am glad to find it is working so well for me.

More to come soon.

Get rid of all the things – Part III

Little things count. Bags of clothes sent to Goodwill, community centers and drop boxes count. Seldom used household items and non-sentimental trinkets are all candidates for the downsizing process. Garage and yard sales lose their attraction. Instead of looking at them with the thought of what treasure you might find, you long for the day when you can have your own sale. Everything I see now causes me to question its long term utility. It is a change in my thinking that I wasn’t expecting.

One must be a bit careful. It can become easy to look at everything as expendable. I’m not quite ready for that. Getting rid of something only to find I would need it will cost me in the end. That is one benefit of starting a purge while there is no hurry. A time will come when I am ready to move into a smaller space and the need to get rid of stuff will be more urgent. By that time, I expect to have much less than I do now so that the process is not overwhelming.

The last things you should get rid of are clothes, tools and cooking items. At least that is what I am thinking right now. I am not following a particular plan but taking bits and pieces of what others are doing. Some of the people I’ve read are over the top and into lifestyles that are not of interest to me. I am not a vegan, yoga practitioner or tree hugger. I am not interested in eating bugs, hunting my own food or growing a garden. The nomadic lifestyle is somewhat alluring, offering the opportunity to see different places and not be tied down to one location and climate.

Having lost my wife has made it easier to get rid of material things. When you no longer have the person who means the most to you, everything else’s value decreases. Of course I am not talking about people. Inanimate objects no longer hold the appeal they once did. And so we can more easily part with them.

Stay tuned for more on my path to smallness.

 

Celebrating the “Holiday”?

While we will never be certain of the date Jesus was born, everyone who celebrates December 25th as Christmas must realize and acknowledge the truth.  Just like all other birthdays, there is only one explanation for this one.

Christmas

We know it as Christmas but this takes nothing away from the fact that it is the birthday celebration of one man, Jesus Christ. We also celebrate other birthdays on a national level: Martin Luther King and George Washington.  Every president’s birth is recorded in history books.  On Facebook we all get lots of Happy Birthdays on our special day.  No one would begrudge anyone of a cake with candles, a favorite meal, and a gift or card on his or her birthday.  Google changes their logo but not to anything related to Jesus. A tree or Santa is the symbol of Christmas for the internet.

In workplaces there are often balloons and banners attached to the cubicle or desk of whose ever birthday it may be.  On Christmas Day, most people do not have to work even if they are alleged atheists. You never hear stories of people insisting on going in to work because they don’t believe in Jesus.

Yet, despite all of this recognition of the “Holiday” there are many who would fight and argue to remove manger scenes, references to Jesus and even the word Christmas itself from the celebration and turn it into something completely unrelated.

Seasons or Holiday Greetings is now the politically correct term for Christmas.  (More on political correctness in future posts.)

Every retailer enjoys the fruits of Christmas now starting even before Thanksgiving which also now has become a celebration of eating rather than thanking God for His blessings (more on that next November).  We give more honor to Halloween that Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter.

Black Friday used to start the day after Thanksgiving when retailers could look forward to major profits. It’s long been forgotten that they owe their thanks to Jesus.

I wonder how many people would be okay if on their birthday instead of “Happy Birthday” they were greeted with “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holiday”.  Why not?  Society has done it to the birthday of Jesus.  What makes anyone else’s birthday so special and immune?  Is there anyone else in history who has had so much controversy besides this one?  Is there anyone else whose name causes so must debate and intolerance especially on his or her birthday?  Please name one.

Most children have made lists and will unwrap presents having no idea why?  For them it is toy replenishment day. That’s about it.  What a loss. They will watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and adults will watch Hallmark Christmas specials but only a few will bother to remember the Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity.

Many will say that Christmas is a season, a time of good will and being cheerful and kind to one another.  It must evolve from the celebration of the birth of the Son of God and be made into something non-spiritual that breaks past the boundaries of religion and exclusion.  They will say that it must diversify and not offend anyone of another faith.  Try that out on your own birthday.

There is nothing wrong with sharing meals together, eating cookies and exchanging gifts. But for me and I hope for many others, December 25th will always be about His birthday.  Happy Birthday Jesus!

Happy Birthday Jesus 3

Happy Birthday Jesus